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  Half Past Dead
Don Michael Paul, USA, 2002
Rating: 2.7

Posted: November 27, 2002

The powers that be here at Shaking Through have been kind enough to send me to a first-run movie for a change. However, they were cruel enough to make that movie Half Past Dead. Irony... I get it. First of all, let me make something clear: I am a Steven Seagal fan. I remember a svelte Seagal sprinting down a Chicago street, threatening to kill a man in his own kitchen. That was 14 years and 85 pounds ago, in the classic Above The Law. Itís true that time waits for no man, especially not for stars in the action genre, but it's not Father Time who's responsible for the misfortunes of Half Past Dead -- at least not completely. The plot? Donít worry about it. Everythingís in place, as much as can be expected. Some people love car chases; Iím a machine gun guy. And if nothing else, in Half Past Dead, lead does fly. Thereís plenty of two-gun shooting and leaping (a la John Woo), helicopter crashing, and enough explosions for three movies. Ja Rule lends his support as Seagalís ex-partner in crime, and Morris Chestnut chimes in as the leader of an armed organization intent upon seizing a prison (a re-opened Alcatraz, of all things) to extract valuable information from a prisoner on Death Row. Yes, before you ask, there are elements of Under Siege, The Rock and even The Matrix (if you count the blue-eye-shadow-wearing, submachine-gun-toting, leather-clad chick who spins around and kicks Ja Rule's ass). Sounds like weíre geared up for action, right?

Not so fast. Seagal, in his relaxed-fit Alcatraz jumpsuit and Deion Sanders bandanna, never seems to get going. He still possesses the greatest scowl since Clint Eastwood, but he's far too passive here. Itís almost as if the prison setting is much too confining for him. No short clotheslines are delivered, and the Seagal trademark, the breaking of the opponentís arm backwards at the elbow, is nowhere to be seen. Any real fan will recognize that there's just some spark missing from the whole equation. The Seagal of Out For Justice or Marked For Death is a far more commanding presence than the one we're saddled with here. Heís a little older, and a little bigger (okay, a lot bigger), but he's still capable of bringing a unique presence to an action film. This isn't true of everyone; for example, Anna Nicole is older and fatter, and I don't want to see her naked anymore, but I still want to see Steven Seagal. (Not naked -- at least I don't think so. No, I'm sure -- definitely not naked.)

As a huge Seagal fan, I think I'm qualified to speak to what makes his movies tick: Have some miscreants cause trouble, give Steven a .45 automatic, stand back and let him do his thing. Half Past Dead would have been far better off sticking to such a formula. Without Seagal's customary ass-kicking flair, whatís left is a very mediocre movie whose title writes its own reviews.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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